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My first all day grandmother babysitting gig was Presidents Day.

The daycare was closed but my daughter and her husband still had to work. Nervous but excited, hubby Ron and I travelled to North Carolina to watch over baby Leo (3 months old). The last time I cared for a baby was my daughter some 32 years ago. Here is a pictorial essay of what I learned as a new grandparent.

Babysitting is pretty easy when said baby is in good humor. This is Leo smiling. This is how most babies are represented. Like me, people are less likely to post pictures of a baby wailing. Believe me, babies cry.

Managing a baby is hard on older body parts. Here I am struggling to rise from the floor after one on one time with Leo. I can get down, but getting up is a challenge. Once Leo starts crawling he will always get quite a head start if I must first rise from a sitting position to follow him.

Babysitting requires innovative approaches to keeping baby occupied. Leo has one of those baby walkers but of course he is too young to propel it with his feet. To keep him happy I devised a way to push him without bending over (see above comment on body parts.) The broom stick tucked in the back of the walker had its limitations. I tried to hook the baby walker to the robot vacuum cleaner but was unsuccessful.

New baby equipment is heavy. Taking Leo for a walk required lifting a baby stroller the weight of a refrigerator down porch steps. The baby cradle that fits into the stroller frame weighs only slightly less. Fortunately, Ron could do the heavy lifting. I miss the ultra-portable ultra-light umbrella strollers from 3 decades ago.

Babysitting is more stressful for some than others. That is me alert and watchful as I cradle Leo through his nap. That is Ron asleep as he and Leo both take a nap. I stayed nearby, alert and watchful, during their naptime so I was in position to catch Leo if he tumbled from Ron’s arms. Ron clearly has a more relaxed approach to babysitting than me.

I was exhausted by the end of the day. When Molly and Andy arrived home I happily handed them a healthy, well fed baby, I then went to the refrigerator and poured myself an ice cold beer. I am shown here raising a glass to the 3 million men and women my age who are raising their grandchildren. You are my heroes.


Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Over the past several years I have been regaled with pictures of OTHER people’s grandchildren. One theme is clear: they always seem happy. So it came as a bit of a shock to me when visiting my newborn grandbaby that he cries. Sure, Leo smiles but not all the time like I would hope. Sometimes he’s fussy and it takes rocking and singing lullabies to quiet him.

Singing lullabies is particularly challenging because I can only remember the first verse of my favorites. I love “Three Little Fishies” but it been 30 years since I sang this ditty to my children. I can’t remember what happens to the three little fishies after they follow mama’s order to “swim if you can” and “they swam and they swam all over the dam.” When I explained my dilemma to my daughter she simply said “Alexa, play “Three Little Fishies” and the fate of the fishies became clear. Frankly, it is a rather complex story line involving a whale and disobeying mother fishie so I am not surprised I forget what happened after the dam incident.

Interestingly, the chorus includes multiple repetitions of the phrase “Boop bop ditty dotty whatem shooooooo.” Research studies now tout the power of the 5 S’s to soothe babies: swaddling, side/stomach position, swinging, sucking and (ready for this one?) shushing sounds. No wonder Leo likes Three Little Fishies. It’s got the shushing sound!

There are many other lullabies in my repertoire. When recalling all the verses is simply too challenging, I revert to my long time, easy to remember favorite: 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. I may be old but I can still count backwards from 100.


I recently became a first time grandmother so I hauled out the portacrib I have been saving for 34 years. I was quickly informed by my daughter and others the crib is no longer acceptable because it may be an instrument of DEATH!!!!! In 201l, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission approved new federal requirements for overall crib safety. No more drop-side cribs. Wood slats must be stronger. Crib hardware must have anti-loosening devices to keep it from coming loose or falling off.

My daughter regards the portacrib with suspicion even though she and her brother survived sleeping in it. I think the crib is safe (except for that anti-loosening device requirement). I am still relegating the crib to the trash heap to insure I will be asked to babysit on occasion.

This is a picture of my son Nick asleep in the portacrib in 1985. It’s a miracle the child survived given his life-threatening surroundings. Other than the crib itself, can you spot the other significant safety violations?

First, he is sleeping on his stomach. This is a very big NO NO. When Molly brought my

grandson home from the hospital, he was swathed in a blanket that pronounced “Back is Best.” This approach hopefully reduces incidents of crib death.

Second, there is a blanket in the crib. Another big NO NO. Blankets, comforters and pillows and even stuffed animals can lead to baby suffocation or strangulation

Third, there is a crib bumper. I don’t know how a baby can get in trouble with a baby bumper but apparently these too can lead to strangulation and suffocation.

Finally, there is a gap between the mattress and the side of the crib. This too is very, very bad. A baby might get his head caught in the gap. However, the size of Nick’s head in relation to the small triangular gap makes me wonder: Really?????

Who knew a sweet picture of my infant son asleep is actually Nick ensnared in DEATH TRAP?

I immediately ordered a Graco Pack ‘n Play which mothers and grandmothers alike recommended. This is the 2019 version of my 1985 portacrib. Although frankly it is not very portable. In fact, it weighs a ton (actually only 15 lbs. but that is a ton to a 71 year old grandmother). Figuring out how to assemble it was not easy. It also features some netting that can be used for a bassinet. My husband was thrilled, announcing, “Oh, look, it includes a trampoline.”

Now this Pack’n Play (or as I refer to it, Unpack and Pray You Can Put It Together) may meet federal safety standards but it still replete with dire alerts: WARNING!!!!! Failure to follow these warnings could result in serious injury or death! This warning applies to the adult who is assembling the crib as well as the child occupying it. Apparently not keeping ones fingers clear of top corners during setup can lead to serious boo-boos. There are directions for avoiding suffocation hazards and strangulation hazards and entanglement injuries. In all the owner’s manual is 20 pages long.

The Pack’n Play is ready to receive my grandson on his first visit to our farmhouse next month.

I am going to opt for a more traditional form of a crib than the Pack’n Play. I plan to hold my grandson in my arms every chance I get.

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